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Friday, February 12, 2016

Sanders and Trump: Magic sells





  






The New Hampshire results have solidified the reigning cliche that the 2016 campaign is an anti-establishment revolt of both the left and the right. Largely overlooked, however, is the role played in setting the national mood by the seven-year legacy of the Obama presidency.

Yes, you hear constant denunciations of institutions, parties, leaders, donors, lobbyists, influence peddlers. But the starting point of the bipartisan critique is the social, economic and geopolitical wreckage all around us. Bernie Sanders is careful never to blame President Obama directly, but his description of the America Obama leaves behind is devastating — a wasteland of stagnant wages, rising inequality, a sinking middle class, young people crushed by debt, the American Dream dying.

Take away the Brooklyn accent and the Larry David mannerisms and you would have thought you were listening to a Republican candidate. After all, who’s been in charge for the last seven years?

Donald Trump is even more colorful in describing the current “mess” and more direct in attributing it to the country’s leadership — most pungently, its stupidity and incompetence. Both candidates are not just anti-establishment but anti-status quo. The revolt is as much about the Obama legacy as it is about institutions.

Look at New Hampshire. Hillary Clinton had made a strategic decision, as highlighted in the debates, to wrap herself in the mantle of the Obama presidency. She lost New Hampshire by three touchdowns.

Beyond railing against the wreckage, the other commonality between the two big New Hampshire winners is in the nature of the cure they offer. Let the others propose carefully budgeted five-point plans. Sanders and Trump offer magic.


Take Sanders’ New Hampshire victory speech. It promised the moon: college education, free; universal health care, free; world peace, also free because we won’t be “the policeman of the world” (mythical Sunni armies will presumably be doing that for us). Plus a guaranteed $15 minimum wage. All to be achieved by taxing the rich. Who can be against a “speculation” tax (whatever that means)?

So with Trump. Leave it to him. Jobs will flow back in a rush from China, from Japan, from Mexico, from everywhere. Universal health care, with Obamacare replaced by “something terrific.” Veterans finally taken care of. Drugs stopped cold at the border. Indeed, an end to drug addiction itself. Victory upon victory of every kind.

How? That question never comes up anymore. No one expects an answer. His will be done, on Earth if not yet in heaven. Yes, people love Trump’s contempt for the “establishment” — which as far as I can tell means anything not Trump — but what is truly thrilling is the promise of a near-biblical restoration. As painless as Sanders’.

In truth, Trump and Sanders are soaring not just by defying the establishment, but by defying logic and history. Sanders’ magic potion is socialism; Trump’s is Trump.

The young Democrats swooning for Sanders appear unfamiliar with socialism’s century-long career, a dismal tale of ruination from Russia to Cuba to Venezuela. Indeed, are they even aware that China’s greatest reduction in poverty in human history correlates precisely with the degree to which it has given up socialism?

Trump’s magic is toughness — toughness in a world of losers. The power and will of the caudillo will make everything right.

Apart from the fact that strongman rule contradicts the American constitutional tradition of limited and constrained government, caudillo populism simply doesn’t work. For example, it accounts in large part for the relative backwardness of Africa and Latin America. In 1900, Argentina had a per capita income fully 70percent of ours. After a 20th century wallowing in Peronism and its imitators, Argentina is a basket case, its per capita income now 23 percent of ours.

There certainly is a crisis of confidence in our country’s institutions. But that’s hardly new. The current run of endemic distrust began with Vietnam and Watergate. Yet not in our lifetimes have the left and right populism of the Sanders and Trump variety enjoyed such massive support.

The added factor is the Obama effect, the depressed and anxious mood of a nation experiencing its worst economic recovery since World War II and watching its power and influence abroad decline amid a willed global retreat. 


The result is a politics of high fantasy. Things can’t get any worse, we hear, so why not shake things to their foundation? Anyone who thinks things can’t get any worse knows nothing. And risks everything.


***


‘The  dismal tale of ruination from Russia to Cuba to Venezuela.


It would be interesting to find out how much these young Democrats know  about the  Kronstadt  rebellion, the collectivization, the Ukrainian famine, the Kirov murder, the great Purge of the thirties, the Gulags, the Katyn massacre, the Doctors’ Plot, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution and how many people Che Guevara executed as Castro’s executioner? 

Hugh Fitzgerald: Islam Is Not A Mystery



Islam is not a hieratic mystery, which only the initiated, a special priesthood, can possibly understand. It is, rather, sufficiently grasped by more than a billion people who, save for a handful, have been born into it, and have grown up in societies suffused with it, societies where it is impermissible to question Islam, to ponder whether its directives make moral or intellectual sense, and where any open display of questioning is punished, and any putative blasphemy or any open admission of apostasy, can result, in many cases, in a death sentence carried out not only by the Muslim state, but also by  the informal meting out of Muslim justice by Believers who can, on their own, enforce Islamic law.
The written accounts upon which Islam rests are three: first,  the Qur’an, believed by Muslims to be outside of history, exempt from any historical study (which can be punished), Uncreated and Immutable; second, the collections of stories of what Muhammad said and did (and these have been assigned levels of authenticity after careful study by the muhaddithin — Muslim scholars who centuries ago studied the chains of transmission, or isnad-chains, of each story, and on the basis of such study assigned ranks of “authenticity” to each Hadith); third, the Sira, that is, the biography of Muhammad, which of course overlaps the Hadith considerably (and may have been woven out of the Hadith, or vice-versa). Together the Hadith and the Sira constitute what is called the Sunnah, that is, the manners and customs of the earliest Muslims, that offer a gloss or guide to the meaning of the Qur’an, and to the way a Muslim should behave in every aspect of his life. Some believe, or claim to believe, that the Sunnah is more ferocious than the Qur’an, and responsible for the co-called “radicalisation” of Muslims. There are those who claim that the way out for Muslims is to somehow jettison  both the Hadith and the Sira, and – as one young Turk, Mustafa Akyol, a self-consciously Brave Young Reformer, used to argue — Muslims need to keep only the Qur’an, that is, rely on “sola scriptura.” (Akyol is not alone in trying to assimilate terms taken from the history of Christianity and the Reformation, and misleadingly apply them to the case of Islam.) To this notion of doing away, in Islam, with any reliance on the Hadith and Sira, to getting a billion Sunnis (a word derived from the “Sunnah”) to accept this, one can only reply: Fat Chance.
These written works — Qur’an, Hadith, Sira, and commentaries on all three — are easily available. You can find them online, a click away, and can also find online hundreds or thousands of websites, in English and other European languages, as well as in the languages most associated with Islam and Muslims (Arabic, Urdu, Farsi, various forms of Bahasa) devoted to answering queries of all kinds, websites where ordinary Muslims ask questions of clerics — about all the matters of daily life, food, dress, personal hygiene, sexual behavior, family law. You, too, can eavesdrop on these. And you can find out, again by such eavesdropping, how Muslims are taught to regard, and to treat, Unbelievers, especially in the pronouncements on Infidels from high-ranking clerics, including the Sheik Al-Azhar, from Saudi clerics, from Iranian clerics, from Muslim clerics from all over the world. All of this is available. You might start online with the excellent translation services of Muslim material — including what political figures, clerics, diplomats, officials from the Muslim world are saying to their own people — to be found at www.MEMRI.org.
But how many people will take the time to avail themselves of such material, available in such plenty? Among those who keep reassuring us about Islam — Obama or Cameron or Merkel — how many of our leaders do you think  have even once gone to MEMRI.org, or to Jihad Watch, or read a single one of the books by the Defectors from Islam? I kept hoping Obama might meet with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose personal testimony as to Islam, delivered with such relentless indignation, just might, I dreamed, have some effect on Obama. Such a meeting was not to be; it would have been politically incorrect. Still, I think it would be useful to ask aloud (perhaps some Republican candidate might do the asking): “Why, President Obama, could you not have met with Ayaan Hirsi Ali?” — even if we know the answer, and know we won’t be given it.
Aside from the distraction that the Internet provides, when we do start to look up Muslim websites, we find the very names  off-puttingly foreign. If you are the kind of person who cannot make it through War and Peace because of all those Russian names and patronymics you cannot keep straight, then you might have some initial difficulty with reading about Islam – think just of such words as “Hadith” and “Sira,” or “dhimmi” and “jizyah,” and what barriers to mental entry they pose to so many. And there is also the question of the sheer surpassing boredom of it all, as the Total Belief-System of Islam, is, in its details, horribly uninteresting. Think only of having to read through a recital, before every hadith, of the relevant isnad-chain – the chain of oral transmission of the particular story, right back, if possible, to the time of Muhammad, with all the various human links on that chain, as A said to B said to C, solemnly imparted, when we all know, if we are non-Muslims, what a large amount of fantasy and make-believe goes into the claims for these isnad-chains and their solemn studiers.
But at least you can learn about how Hadith were winnowed by the muhaddithin (Hadith scholars), and which muhaddithin (Bukhari, Muslim) are regarded as most authoritative by Muslims, and why, and just how the study of the isnad-chains, and the assigning of rank of “authenticity” to each of the putative Hadith through such study, is accomplished.  In learning about all this, there is difficulty, there is boredom, but there is no mystery.
And you have available, as well, the great non-Muslim scholars of Islam, those who began to subject Islam to the same kind of approach as, beginning in the latter part of the 19th century, was given by  German and English Protestant historians to the study of Christianity, a study known as the Higher Criticism. That is, instead of accepting the Muslim narrative about Islam, Western scholars tried to study Islam as they would anything else, with the Qur’an and Hadith “put back into history.” Among those who studied and wrote in such uninhibited fashion were such scholars as C. Snouck Hurgronje, Joseph Schacht, David Margoliouth, Georges Vajda, Arthur Jeffrey, Henri Lammens, Samuel Zwemer, St. Clair Tisdall, K. S. Lal. But this golden age of Western scholarship came to an end when Arab money bought up so many academic departments, or was responsible for the opening of “Centers for the Study of Islam” (think only John Esposito at Georgetown and his Saudi backers), where the Islamic narrative about Islam ruled the roost, and critical study of Islam in universities was no longer possible. Still, the work of those scholars of Islam from that Golden Century of Scholarship — from about 1870 to 1970 — is available not only in large libraries, but for sale in cheap Indian editions, and can also be found online.
You, an Unbeliever, now have easily available not only Qur’an, Hadith, and Sira, but the most important Qur’anic commentators, jurisconsults, historians (Muslim and non-Muslim) of 1400 years of Muslim conquest of and interaction with many different non-Muslim peoples. There should be no mystery about Islam.
But mystery about Islam there still seems to be, all over the Western world. Why should this be so, and what are the consequences of the failure of so many in the West to learn about, or to know about, or to make sense of, the Total Belief-System of Islam, needs to be pondered.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

New poll shows Rubio closing in on Trump in N.H.




By James Pindell

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. — Front-runner Donald Trump holds a nearly 10 percentage point lead over his rivals in New Hampshire’s Republican primary race, but Senator Marco Rubio is closing the gap in the final days, according to a new poll released Friday.

Twenty-nine percent of voters surveyed said they backed Trump, and Rubio of Florida took second place with 19 percent. That’s the highest level of support Rubio has shown in any public survey since Trump entered the race in the summer.

 The Suffolk University/Boston Globe survey also showed former secretary of state Hillary Clinton in striking distance of Senator Bernie Sanders, who has a 9 percentage point lead in the Democratic primary.

A sizable majority of Democrats seem to have made up their minds, and a smaller portion of Republican voters questioned said they were certain of their choice in Tuesday’s primary. While 33 percent of Republicans in the poll said they could change their minds over the closing weekend, just 13 percent of Democrats said the same.

In the Republican race, Ohio Governor John Kasich placed third in the poll with 13 percent, former Florida governor Jeb Bush had 10 percent , US Senator Ted Cruz had 7 percent, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie fell to 5 percent, and Ben Carson had 4 percent.

Cruz won Monday’s Iowa caucuses, while Trump had a disappointing second-place finish, and Rubio finished closely in third.

“What a difference a caucus makes,” said David Paleologos, director of the Political Research Center at Suffolk University. “By exceeding expectations in Iowa, Marco Rubio is converting likability to electability, even more so than Ted Cruz, who, like many conservative Iowa winners of the past like Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, can’t seem to convert an Iowa win into a major showing in New Hampshire.”

Trump has led every poll of the New Hampshire primary since he announced his campaign.

The poll also showed that Sanders, who is from neighboring Vermont, leads Clinton, 50 percent to 41 percent, with 8 percent undecided.

The key factor contributing to Sanders’ lead over Clinton is his advantage among independent voters, who favor him over Clinton, 57 percent to 30 percent. Sanders also leads among men, 59 percent to 30 percent, and in the areas along the Vermont state line, 60 percent to 32 percent


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Why did three Muslim terrorists kill Hadar Cohen?

                                          Hadar Cohen



     
Why did three Muslim terrorists kill Hadar Cohen?

They did so because in 622 the Prophet Muhammad moved from Mecca to Medina and created the supremacist ideology of political Islam.  It is as simple as that.  No n-state solution  will make any difference in their determination to fulfill the demands of this ideology.

Of course, you will not hear this explanation from most of our politicians and journalists because  neither our politicians nor the journalists have done  their homework.   It is the ugly world of ignorance and political correctness  - a euphemism for political cowardice.


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Obama just made Iran’s brutal regime stronger




“Evident victory!”

This is how Iranian President Hassan Rouhani describes the diplomatic swindle, known as the “Iran nuclear deal.”

The Koranic term (in Arabic Fatah al-Mobin) refers to one of Prophet Mohammed’s successful guerrilla raids on a Meccan caravan in the early days of Islam.

Rouhani claims the “deal” represents “the greatest diplomatic victory in Islamic history.” Leaving aside the hyperbole, a fixture of the mullahs’ rhetorical arsenal, Rouhani has reason to crow.

If not quite moribund as some analysts claim, the Islamic Republic had been in a rough patch for years.

For more than a year, the government was unable to pay some of the 5.2 million public sector employees, notably teachers, petrochemical workers and students on bursaries, triggering numerous strikes.

Deprived of urgently needed investment, the Iranian oil industry was pushed to the edge with its biggest oil fields, notably Bibi Hakimeh and Maroun, producing less than half their capacity.

Between 2012 and 2015, Iran lost 25% of its share in the global oil market.

Sanctions and lack of investment also meant that large chunks of Iranian industry, dependent on imported parts, went under. In 2015 Iran lost an average of 1,000 jobs a day.

Last month, the nation’s currency, the rial, fell to an all-time record low while negative economic growth was forecast for the third consecutive year.

Having increased the military budget by 21%, Rouhani was forced to delay presentation of his new budget for the Iranian New Year starting March 21.

Against that background that Obama rode to the rescue by pushing through a “deal” designed to ease pressure on Iran in exchange for nothing but verbal promises from Tehran. Here is some of what Obama did:

·         Dropped demands that Iran reshape its nuclear program to make sure it can never acquire a military dimension. As head of Iranian Atomic Energy Agency Ali Akbar Salehi has said: “Our nuclear project remains intact. The ‘deal’ does not prevent us from doing what we were doing.”

·         He suspended a raft of sanctions and pressured the European Union and the United Nations to do the same.

·         He injected a badly needed $1.7 billion into Iranian economy by releasing assets frozen under President Jimmy Carter and kept as possible compensation for Americans held hostage at different times. The cash enabled Rouhani to start paying some unpaid salaries in Iran while financing Hezbollah branches and helping the Assad regime in Syria.

·         Obama released another tranche of $30 billion, enabling Rouhani to present his new budget with a reduced deficit at 14% while increasing the military-security budget yet again, by 4.2%.

·         Banking sanctions were set aside to let Iran import 19,000 tons of American rice to meet shortages on the eve of Iranian New Year when consumption reaches its peak.

·         Obama’s lovefest with the mullahs helped mollify the Khomeinist regime’s image as a sponsor of international terror and a diplomatic pariah.

What is the rationale behind Obama’s dogged determination to help the mullahs out of the ditch they have dug?


Some cite Obama’s alleged belief that the US has been an “imperialist power,” bullying weaker nations and must make amends.

Others suggest a tactic to strengthen “moderates” within the Iranian regime who, if assured that the US does into seek regime change might lead the nation towards a change of behavior.

Whatever the reasons, what Obama has done could best described as appeasement-plus.

In classical appeasement you promise an adversary not to oppose some of his moves, for example the annexation of Czechoslovakia, but you do not offer him actual financial or diplomatic support.

Obama has gone beyond that.

In addition to saving Iran from running out of money, on the diplomatic front he has endorsed Tehran’s scenario for Syria, is campaigning to help Iran choose the next Lebanese president, and has given the mullahs an open field in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Secretary of State John Kerry talks of Iran as “the regional power,” to the chagrin of Washington’s Middle East allies.

What if the “deal” actually weakens the “moderates” that Obama wants to support, supposing they do exist?

Obama’s imaginary “moderates” are not in good shape. The Council of Guardians that decides who could run for election next month has disqualified 99% of the so-called “moderate” wannabes, ensuring the emergence of a new Islamic parliament and Assembly of Experts dominated by radicals as never before.

Meanwhile, the annual “End of America” festival, Feb. 1 to 10, is to be held with greater pomp.

With more resources at its disposal, Tehran is intensifying its “exporting the revolution” campaign. Last week it announced the creation of a new Hezbollah branch in Turkey and, for the first time, made the existence of a branch in Iraq public. Tajikistan was also publicly added to the markets where Khomeinist revolution should be exported.

There are no “moderates” in Tehran, and the Islamic Republic cannot be reformed out of its nature. For the remainder of Obama’s term least, expect a more aggressive Islamic Republic.

Did the mullahs deceive Obama? No, this was all his idea.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Against Trump





by THE EDITORS

Donald Trump leads the polls nationally and in most states in the race for the Republican presidential nomination. There are understandable reasons for his eminence, and he has shown impressive gut-level skill as a campaigner. But he is not deserving of conservative support in the caucuses and primaries. Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.

Trump’s political opinions have wobbled all over the lot. The real-estate mogul and reality-TV star has supported abortion, gun control, single-payer health care à la Canada, and punitive taxes on the wealthy. (He and Bernie Sanders have shared more than funky outer-borough accents.) Since declaring his candidacy he has taken a more conservative line, yet there are great gaping holes in it.

His signature issue is concern over immigration — from Latin America but also, after Paris and San Bernardino, from the Middle East. He has exploited the yawning gap between elite opinion in both parties and the public on the issue, and feasted on the discontent over a government that can’t be bothered to enforce its own laws no matter how many times it says it will (President Obama has dispensed even with the pretense). But even on immigration, Trump often makes no sense and can’t be relied upon. A few short years ago, he was criticizing Mitt Romney for having the temerity to propose “self-deportation,” or the entirely reasonable policy of reducing the illegal population through attrition while enforcing the nation’s laws. Now, Trump is a hawk’s hawk.

He pledges to build a wall along the southern border and to make Mexico pay for it. We need more fencing at the border, but the promise to make Mexico pay for it is silly bluster. Trump says he will put a big door in his beautiful wall, an implicit endorsement of the dismayingly conventional view that current levels of legal immigration are fine. Trump seems unaware that a major contribution of his own written immigration plan is to question the economic impact of legal immigration and to call for reform of the H-1B–visa program. Indeed, in one Republican debate he clearly had no idea what’s in that plan and advocated increased legal immigration, which is completely at odds with it. These are not the meanderings of someone with well-informed, deeply held views on the topic.

As for illegal immigration, Trump pledges to deport the 11 million illegals here in the United States, a herculean administrative and logistical task beyond the capacity of the federal government. Trump piles on the absurdity by saying he would re-import many of the illegal immigrants once they had been deported, which makes his policy a poorly disguised amnesty (and a version of a similarly idiotic idea that appeared in one of Washington’s periodic “comprehensive” immigration reforms). This plan wouldn’t survive its first contact with reality.

On foreign policy, Trump is a nationalist at sea. Sometimes he wants to let Russia fight ISIS, and at others he wants to “bomb the sh**” out of it. He is fixated on stealing Iraq’s oil and casually suggested a few weeks ago a war crime — killing terrorists’ families — as a tactic in the war on terror. For someone who wants to project strength, he has an astonishing weakness for flattery, falling for Vladimir Putin after a few coquettish bats of the eyelashes from the Russian thug. All in all, Trump knows approximately as much about national security as he does about the nuclear triad — which is to say, almost nothing.

Indeed, Trump’s politics are those of an averagely well-informed businessman: Washington is full of problems; I am a problem-solver; let me at them. But if you have no familiarity with the relevant details and the levers of power, and no clear principles to guide you, you will, like most tenderfeet, get rolled. Especially if you are, at least by all outward indications, the most poll-obsessed politician in all of American history. Trump has shown no interest in limiting government, in reforming entitlements, or in the Constitution. He floats the idea of massive new taxes on imported goods and threatens to retaliate against companies that do too much manufacturing overseas for his taste. His obsession is with “winning,” regardless of the means — a spirit that is anathema to the ordered liberty that conservatives hold dear and that depends for its preservation on limits on government power. The Tea Party represented a revival of an understanding of American greatness in these terms, an understanding to which Trump is tone-deaf at best and implicitly hostile at worst. He appears to believe that the administrative state merely needs a new master, rather than a new dispensation that cuts it down to size and curtails its power.

It is unpopular to say in the year of the “outsider,” but it is not a recommendation that Trump has never held public office. Since 1984, when Jesse Jackson ran for president with no credential other than a great flow of words, both parties have been infested by candidates who have treated the presidency as an entry-level position. They are the excrescences of instant-hit media culture. The burdens and intricacies of leadership are special; experience in other fields is not transferable. That is why all American presidents have been politicians, or generals.

Any candidate can promise the moon. But politicians have records of success, failure, or plain backsliding by which their promises may be judged. Trump can try to make his blankness a virtue by calling it a kind of innocence. But he is like a man with no credit history applying for a mortgage — or, in this case, applying to manage a $3.8 trillion budget and the most fearsome military on earth.

Trump’s record as a businessman is hardly a recommendation for the highest office in the land. For all his success, Trump inherited a real-estate fortune from his father. Few of us will ever have the experience, as Trump did, of having Daddy-O bail out our struggling enterprise with an illegal loan in the form of casino chips. Trump’s primary work long ago became less about building anything than about branding himself and tending to his celebrity through a variety of entertainment ventures, from WWE to his reality-TV show, The Apprentice. His business record reflects the often dubious norms of the milieu: using eminent domain to condemn the property of others; buying the good graces of politicians — including many Democrats — with donations.

Trump has gotten far in the GOP race on a brash manner, buffed over decades in New York tabloid culture. His refusal to back down from any gaffe, no matter how grotesque, suggests a healthy impertinence in the face of postmodern PC (although the insults he hurls at anyone who crosses him also speak to a pettiness and lack of basic civility). His promise to make America great again recalls the populism of Andrew Jackson. But Jackson was an actual warrior; and President Jackson made many mistakes. Without Jackson’s scars, what is Trump’s rhetoric but show and strut?

If Trump were to become the president, the Republican nominee, or even a failed candidate with strong conservative support, what would that say about conservatives? The movement that ground down the Soviet Union and took the shine, at least temporarily, off socialism would have fallen in behind a huckster. The movement concerned with such “permanent things” as constitutional government, marriage, and the right to life would have become a claque for a Twitter feed.

Trump nevertheless offers a valuable warning for the Republican party. If responsible men irresponsibly ignore an issue as important as immigration, it will be taken up by the reckless. If they cannot explain their Beltway maneuvers — worse, if their maneuvering is indefensible — they will be rejected by their own voters. If they cannot advance a compelling working-class agenda, the legitimate anxieties and discontents of blue-collar voters will be exploited by demagogues. We sympathize with many of the complaints of Trump supporters about the GOP, but that doesn’t make the mogul any less flawed a vessel for them.

Some conservatives have made it their business to make excuses for Trump and duly get pats on the head from him. Count us out. Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.